Ballad of a Lousy Husband

I should probably tell you more about the night Blue pushed me off the bar because that was really when our marriage ended. Sure, we stayed together another nine, twelve, maybe  fifteen months more, but nothing was ever good again. She stopped thinking it was possible to make me a man, thought that I was a lost cause, and she was right.

I was super-coked up and had at least ten Fernets swimming in me already when I met Blue and a couple of her girlfriends. I’d been bartending around the corner and got off at midnight and walked in Laszlo and knew the guys slinging drinks pretty well, Rick and Brian, who had a whole Brokeback Mountain thing going on, except instead of illicit fishing trips they blew dunes of coke and probably slow danced while the sun came up, much to the chagrin of Brian’s wife.

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painting by Peter Shear

I walk in and kiss Blue and say hey to her friends and immediately went to the bar to buy a round, had a quick pop of Fernet with the Brokeback brigade and struck up a conversation with the woman next to me, some debutante all dressed up and slumming it in the Mission. I dealt with these posh ladies all the time on the weekends, turning our neighborhood into the Dirty Marina—the rich seeing how the paupers lived—and I sort of hated them but also sort of dug making them want to screw me and cocaine made me a kind of charming chauvinist who some women found irresistible and apparently this lady was one of them, because she flirted right off, and I looked her up and down and she wore these crazy jeweled shoes that looked like chandeliers and I—as if deciding to chase a liquored-up impulse to torch those Christmas trees—now needed to drink whiskey from one of her chandelier shoes ASAP.

Which I said to her, making her giggle and bite her bottom lip, and I said, “What’s funny?” and she said, “You’re crazy,” and I said, “You’ve got that right, pretty lady,” and leaned down, slipping off one of her shoes with my wife in a corner having no idea that I was being such a scumbag, simply chatting with her friends, waiting for me to come back with a round of drinks, enjoying a normal night cocktailing until the moment she couldn’t stand me anymore, though that was still minutes away, me trying to convince one of the Brokeback blokes to pour whiskey straight into this girl’s shoe and either Rick or Brian asking her, “You OK with this?” She pointed at me and said, “He’s thirsty,” and Rick/Brian poured whiskey in her chandelier, my chalice, and the music thumped some Chicago break beats, and most people at the bar started cheering when I brought the shoe to my lips and slurped out all the booze and the woman whose shoe it was clapped and made some sorority-style squeals and I held the chandelier up in victory and asked the debutante if she wanted to dance and she said, “Sure,” and I said, “Not here,” and she said, “Where?”

I still had her chandelier in my hand and I knocked on the bar with it and said, “Up there,” and she squealed again and I jumped up on the bar and pulled her up there too and we let the music take over, dancing terribly, me using the chandelier as a prop, flying it all about, doing my whole king-of-the-bar shtick, dancing with spirits and blow and a squealing debutante.

I wonder if Blue saw me herself or if one of her friends had to point toward the bar and ask, “Is that your husband up there?”

I wonder what went through her mind turning to look, having witnessed countless of my idiotic shenanigans already, each of them tangling together to create a huge disappointing ball, an avalanche of humiliations, too much for one innocent wife to take until it was over, I was over, we were over, I’d gone too far, not with the outlandishness of this one incident, per se, drinking from a chandelier shoe and dancing on a bar, but now the ball was a speeding boulder of all the times I embarrassed Blue, and I bet she didn’t even answer her friend, bet she simply stood and stormed as all the ire coursed through her and out her fingertips.

I never saw her coming. One second I was dancing and zooming the shoe in zigzags and the next feeling pressure on the backs of my legs.

Feet leaving the bar.

Weight flipping in a slow-motion tumble that seemed impervious to gravity.

I must have dropped the chandelier, must have brought my hands up to protect my face, must have thought it was the debutante’s beau or a jilted one-night stand, it never even occurred to me that Blue might have masterminded this violent fate: still falling, still feeling my legs whipping up until I was upside down.

Crashing face-first to the floor.

And then it was like the whole room vanished.  

All the other people gone.

Music nixed.

Just me and the shoe-chandelier sitting on the floor in the empty bar. Blue standing above us. The look in her eyes was all anger. At me. At this drunk she’d tethered herself to. At this person too dense to treat other people with dignity.

I lay there bleeding some with my head all sideways, shocked but also sort of proud of all our life’s anarchy. Loved the shoves I never saw coming.

I was rabid with selfishness and the only thing to do with an animal like that was to Old Yeller his ass, point the gun at his head through your tears, pull that trigger and bury the body before he had the chance to hurt you again, leave the tiny chandelier as a headstone, a beacon, a lighthouse, tossing watts to mark the grave of a lousy husband.

A whimpering eulogy flitting on the wind, in memory of a parasite, a wrecking ball, a waste.

–Joshua Mohr

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